"The system worked as follows: Local ranchers and vineyard owners started paying some or all of the wages owed to their Indian laborers in alcohol. The Native Americans then got drunk off the alcohol and American lawmen arrested them for drunkeness. The next morning, after sobering up, the Indians were auctioned off to local ranchers and vineyard owners who would post their bail in exchange for one week of forced servitude. At the end of the week, if the Indians performed their work satisfactorily, one third of the sale price was given to the laborer. Of course, this payment was usually in the form of more alcohol. So the vicious cycle of alcohol-induced arrest and resulting servitude often repeated itself."
Robert Petersen at KCET-TV's "Lost LA" discusses the exploitation of Native Americans in mid-nineteenth century Los Angeles.